The Russian presidential administration said Wednesday that the Kremlin was attacked by drones overnight in an attempt on President Vladimir Putin’s life.
Moscow residents had reported hearing two explosions behind Kremlin walls shortly after 2 a.m. local time, after which the lights went out. Footage shared by residents in a local Telegram channel captured the incident, as smoke was seen filling the sky above the Kremlin. Videos also appeared to show part of the Kremlin on fire.
Now, authorities say it was a brazen attack by Ukraine using two drones, both of which they say have been destroyed.
Astonishing footage of last night's drone attack on the Kremlin pic.twitter.com/3rghCHdIed
— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) May 3, 2023
No injuries were reported, according to the TASS news agency. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin was not at the presidential residence at the time.
The Kremlin, describing the incident as a “planned terrorist attack” and “assassination attempt on the president of Russia,” is now threatening to take “retaliatory measures.”
A spokesman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied that the country was behind any attack on the Kremlin and accused Moscow of deliberately “escalating the situation ahead of May 9,” when Russia routinely flaunts its military prowess to mark Victory Day.
“Separately, the phrasing by the terrorist state is surprising. A terrorist attack is houses destroyed in Dnipro and Uman, or a rocket attack on a railway station in Kramatorsk, and many other tragedies,” Zelensky’s spokesman Serhii Nykyforov said.
The Kremlin’s official version of events left many unanswered questions. Witnesses said the two separate explosions occurred more than 10 minutes apart—meaning federal protection units guarding the Kremlin either did not react to the first blast or are exceptionally bad at their jobs.
A Moscow resident interviewed by the independent outlet Verstka said he heard the first blast at about 2:30 a.m. The second one, he said, happened several minutes later at 2:42 a.m. Footage shared on local Telegram channels of the first and second explosions also surfaced several minutes apart.
Verstka noted that one of the more striking videos of the “attack” was also apparently filmed from a building located on Red Square that belongs to the presidential administration.
An unnamed worker inside the Kremlin told Verstka there was no sense of panic or heightened security as the work day began Wednesday.
“Nothing strange has happened. The Alexander Garden was not blocked off, cars were parked in the lot as usual,” the worker said.
It was also unclear how two Ukrainian drones could have made it through Russia’s air defenses and into the heart of the capital.
The alleged assassination attempt comes after Russia’s pro-war hawks have spent months demanding the military unleash more brutal attacks against Ukraine, claiming military commanders have been held back from doing so.
Many Russian lawmakers on Wednesday seized on news of the incident at the Kremlin to re-up that demand.
“Terrorists have settled in Kyiv, and, as you know, negotiations with them are meaningless. They need only to be destroyed, quickly and mercilessly. It’s time to launch a missile attack on Zelensky’s residence in Kyiv,” United Russia lawmaker Mikhail Sheremet said in comments to Russian state media. “I’m ready to give the coordinates: 11 Bankova Street, where the so-called administration of the president of Ukraine is located.”
Kremlin propagandists also burst into hysterics, with Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of RT, suggesting on Telegram that the alleged attack is just the pretext Moscow needs to go scorched earth on Ukraine: “Maybe now it will start for real?”
The incident comes just days before Russia’s main Victory Day parade on Red Square, an event that authorities reportedly fear could be disrupted by drone attacks. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Wednesday banned drone flights in the city without a special government permit.
Independent Russian media reported last week that utility workers have been ordered to patrol the streets of Moscow in search of any bombs or drones ahead of the event.